When Oregon City's boys basketball team cranks up the defense like it did Tuesday at La Salle Prep, the Pioneers are tough to beat.
The Pioneers essentially threw a blanket over the Falcons' outside shooters with an aggressive, man-to-man defense, paving the way to a 44-33 non-conference win.
Jake Gettel and Dalton Welch led Oregon City with nine points each, and Andre Best and Lucas Hanson added eight points each to help the Pioneers (8-3) run their winning streak to seven games.
"It was a slow start, but I like how it finished," said Gettel, the 6-foot-1 senior guard.
La Salle's Nic Boyd and Jake Owens finished with a game-high 10 points each, but didn't have much offensive help from their supporting cast as the Falcons (3-6) lost their second in a row.
Oregon City led from wire-to-wire, taking a 16-11 lead at the end of a low-scoring first half before outscoring La Salle 16-6 to help break the game open.
The Falcons got no closer than 12 until the waning seconds of the fourth quarter when Finn O'Brien's 3-pointer got them within 11.
"We came out and we played hard, but we kind of got ourselves into a hole," said Owens, the Falcons' 6-1 junior wing. "We started battling back again, but we just couldn't pull it out at the end.
"I was proud of how hard we fought, though. We came back and were pushing 100 percent for 32 minutes."
The Pioneers set the tone for the game with their defense in the first quarter, holding the Falcons to two points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field to take a 10-2 lead.
After Welch scored the first basket of the second quarter for Oregon City to extend the lead to 12-2, La Salle rallied back within five points on three separate occasions — the last time on an Owens' basket the made it 16-11 with 2:59 to play in the half.
The Falcons were in position to climb closer before the break, but they came up empty on their last four possessions of the half, going 0 for 3 from the field with two turnovers.
La Salle's comeback hopes were all but dashed when the Falcons went the first 4:30 of the third quarter without a field goal and the Pioneers mounted a 12-1 run, taking a 28-12 lead when T.J. Warren scored inside with 3:40 left in the quarter.
"Something different that Oregon City did on defense was they switched everything, which we'd never played against before," Owens said. "That first quarter, we were just trying to figure out what works and what doesn't work.
"By the end, we started to figure that out. We just needed to figure it out earlier."
The Pioneers also extended its defense to the 3-point line and just beyond, trying to limit the damage that the Falcons could do from long range.
"All we did the last two days was defend the 3-point line," Oregon City coach Aaron Newkirk said. "That's one of La Salle's strength and they weren't going to score enough points unless we gave them 3-point shots.
"There were a few time in the game where that happened. It was 12-2 and they made a 3 and then they made another 3 and all of a sudden that opens up opportunities for penetration and other things. But take away that 3-point shot was the No. 1 priority. And we've been very good about that this year. Teams have had a hard time getting 3s off against us."
Actually, teams have had a tough time scoring against Oregon City, period. Through 11 games, the Pioneers were holding opponents to an average of 46.8 points a game, they had a 7-0 record when holding opponents to 50 points or less, and they had a 1-3 record when surrendering more than 50.
"The way we defend is what gives us a chance to be competitive," Newkirk said. "If we don't defend, we're not going to be competitive. So, we have to play that way or we're not going to win.
"This game was tough because there just weren't that many possessions. There were probably close to 30 possessions instead of 60, so you've got to be very particular about what you do on offense and then you've got to be very disciplined on defense."
La Salle coach Sean Christensen admitted that the two-point first quarter didn't help, but insisted that the four empty possessions to close the second quarter followed by four empty possessions to open the third had more to do with the final outcome than the Falcons' slow start.
"I thought our guys competed really hard, but we missed too many easy shots," Christensen said. "You can't miss easy ones against a good team because they'll capitalize on them.
"We didn't get the looks from 3-point range, but I was OK with that because we were getting drives to the basket. We just didn't finish around the basket enough. We competed hard, but obviously not enough punch offensively."
By Jim Beseda
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